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PtJA research & outcomes: what next?

By Stephen Muir

PublicationsPerformances and festivals ♦ Doctoral dissertations ♦ Critical and performing editionsRecordings

It’s quite extraordinary to think that only four years ago I was waiting at the baggage carousel in Johannesburg’s O.R.Tambo International Airport when I received an email on my smart phone informing me that, after nearly 15 months of preparation and application writing, Performing the Jewish Archive had been awarded a £1.5m AHRC grant. I only had a brief chance to see the message when my phone ran out of power, leaving me unable to tell anyone in the world for at least an hour!

Those of you who have followed the project will know that the intervening four years have been a non-stop journey of discovery and sharing—at times frustrating, emotionally draining, tear-inducing, exhilarating, and most other emotions in between; but without doubt the most rewarding and satisfying work that I’ve ever done.

PtJA ended officially in June 2018. But anyone involved in academic research will know that in many respects this is merely an arbitrary point in time, and that much of the hard, focused work of interpreting our findings, and writing them up as publications and in other formats, is still to come. A glance at PtJA’s entry on the UK Research and Innovation ‘Gateway to Research’ system reveals a large amount already achieved. However, a number of important outcomes are currently ‘in the pipeline’ and will appear over the next year or two (and some of them much sooner!). What follows is a summary (by no means absolutely comprehensive) of what is yet to appear as a result of the project.


  • Gideon Klein: A Critical Biography
    David Fligg has recently completed his critical biography of the composer and pianist Gideon Klein, one of a number of significant Czech Jewish musicians who were interned in the Terezín (Theresienstadt) prison camp and ghetto, later to be murdered in Auschwitz. It will be published by Toccata Press in 2019 to mark Klein’s centenary.
  • Stages of Life: Survivor Testimony on Theater in the Terezín Ghetto, 1945–2008
    Lisa Peschel’s new monograph explores the testimony of Terezín survivors since the end of World War II, analyzing elements that remain stable across time, alongside considerations of how Czech survivors’ testimony has changed since the ‘Velvet Revolution’ of 1989, and how the rules regulating Holocaust discourse in the West have influenced what the survivors say and what we hear.
  • Holocaust Literature in German: Canon, Witness, Remediation
    Helen Finch is currently working on a major second monograph, focusing on the literary aftermath of witnessing in the wake of the Holocaust. It examines the transnational literary careers of five German-Jewish literary witnesses to the Holocaust: H. G. Adler, Edgar Hilsenrath, Jurek Becker, Fred Wander and Ruth Kluger. It looks at the way in which canonisation, exclusion from the canon, and a lifetime of witnessing are reflected in their later literary work, and how these works break taboos and norms of Holocaust representation in their attempts to archive a lifetime of pain.
  • ‘Blooms Amid the Ashes’: Children, the Holocaust, and the Musical Experience
    Teryl Dobbs is completing her book proposal for a monograph investigating and revealing children’s musical experiences during the Holocaust. The book draws directly upon her research supported by Performing the Jewish Archive, specifically the heretofore unknown life and music of Josima Feldschuh, a 12-year-old pianist and composer from the Warsaw Ghetto. Through a stance of critical music pedagogy and remembrance, Dobbs interrogates the meaning-making of those musical experiences and the relevance that such meanings may hold for 21st-century children. Further, she proposes implications for future research that crosses disciplinary boundaries between music education and Holocaust education.
  • Music and the Holocaust
    Edited by Stephen Muir, this collection of essays emanating from PtJA’s final conference, The Future of the Archive: Performing the Jewish Archive and Beyond, will form the basis of a special issue (possibly a double issue) of Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, due out in late 2019. The publication will feature articles by members of the PtJA team alongside other contributors.
  • Laughter in the Ghetto: Cabarets from a Concentration Camp
    Lisa Peschel’s chapter will appear in a collection titled Theatre under the National Socialist Regime, appearing in 2018 or 2019.
  • Performing Continuity, Performing Belonging: Three Cabarets from the Terezín Ghetto
    Another chapter by Lisa Peschel will shortly be published by Wiley-Blackwell in A Companion to Public History, edited by David Dean.
  • ‘Mother Rachel and Her Children’: Artistic Expressions in Yiddish and Early Commemoration of the Holocaust in Finland
    Writing in East-European Jewish Affairs, Simo Muir explores issues surrounding Jac Weinstein’s choral pageant Mother Rachel and Her Children, first performed in our 2016 ‘Out of the Shadows’ festival in Madison WI.
  • Out of the depths: complexity, subjectivity and materiality in the earliest accounts of Holocaust song-making
    Appearing in the same special issue of East-European Jewish Affairs, Joseph Toltz’s article focuses on two early material accounts of Holocaust song making: a 1945 songbook printed in Bucharest, and the 1946 expedition by David Boder to the Displaced Persons camps of Europe.
  • Three Performances, Different Responses: Bringing Early Holocaust Commemoration on Stage
    Another article by Simo Muir (submitted to Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History), this time reflecting on the three radically different interpretations of Mother Rachel and her Children staged during the PtJA project.
  • Moja pieśni tyś moja moc (My song, you are my strength): personal repertories of Polish and Yiddish songs from youth survivors of the Łódź Ghetto
    Joseph Toltz draws upon private musical memories that he has collected and recorded over several decades, largely in the city of Melbourne, Australia, which has one of the highest concentrations of Jewish Holocaust survivors outside of Israel. These survivors have made an indelible imprint on cultural life through Yiddish performance and organisations. Joseph’s article explores how songs remembered from survivors’ youth can contribute to our understanding of survivor testimony. It will appear in Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry vol. 32: ‘Jews in Polish Musical Life’, edited by Francois Guesnet, Benjamin Matis & Antony Polonsky.

Performances and festivals

  • Gido se vrací domu!! — Gido’s coming home!
    December 2019 is the centenary of composer Gideon Klein’s birth. At the centre of events marking this important anniversary, David Fligg and other PtJA researchers will collaborate with partner organisations including the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Prague Conservatory to stage Gido se vrací domu!!, a festival of music by Gideon Klein, and related activities. Watch this space for further announcements (we may contact you via this PtJA mailing list, though you are always at liberty to opt out, of course).
  • Enosh [Man] for soprano solo, chorus and orchestra, op. 5
    Cantor Rudi Leavor‘s operatic cantata (composed 1975–77) has only ever been performed with piano accompaniment. The orchestral score and parts are now being prepared for premiere in early 2019.
  • Wilhelm Grosz, Intermezzo for String Quartet
    The premiere of Joseph Toltz’s string orchestra arrangement of Grosz’s Intermezzo from his String Quartet is planned for late 2018 or early 2019 (venue to be confirmed).

Doctoral dissertations

  • The double identity of Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco: the archives of an identity issue
    Alexandru Bar (University of Leeds) focuses on the DaDa artists Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco in his exploration of Jewish identity in Romania in the early twentieth century. Drawing on previously undiscovered archives, he makes a major contribution to the understanding of the complex relationship between these artists’ Jewish experience and their art. The dissertation has now been accepted and confirmed as a pass, and will subsequently be available via the University of Leeds library.
  • Investigating audience responses to theatrical and musical performances
    Nearing completion and submission of his PhD thesis, Richard Oakes (University of York) has been investigating audience responses to theatrical and musical performances, with the aim of determining the impact of PtJA’s performances specifically. Incorporating techniques from multiple disciplines, Richard has evaluated the most effective approaches to audience response testing, including methodologies from Psychology and Theatre Studies.

Critical and performing editions

  • Sacred Jewish Choral Works from Rostov-on-Don
    Stephen Muir’s discoveries of pre-Holocaust 20th-century Russian choral–cantorial manuscripts in Cape Town, South Africa, will form the basis for a volume of new critical and performing editions, comprising synagogue music by Cantor Froim Spektor (1888–1948) and his organist in Rostov, Josef Gottbeter (1877–1942). Accompanied by contextual essays, the volume will be published in 2019 by Toccata Press, and may be followed by others as new material comes to light.
  • Newly-discovered music by Gideon Klein: Topol & Movement for Harp
    During the course of PtJA, David Fligg came across two previously-unpublished works by Gideon Klein: a melodrama for piano and narrator titled Topol (The Poplar Tree, 1938); and Movement for Harp (1935). They are planned for publication (edited by David Fligg) by Boosey and Hawkes as part of their series of Gideon Klein publications.
  • Dovid Ayznshtat’s Passover Cantata Chad gadya
    Found by Stephen Muir, the Passover Cantata Chad gadya (One Little Goat) by Dovid Ayznshtat [Ajzensztadt; Eisenstadt] (1880–1942) is a four-movement setting of the popular Passover seder melody, intended for choir and orchestra with soloists. The orchestral score and parts have yet to be found, and an early choral sketch (hiding among the papers of Froim Spektor in Cape Town) is the only known source. Publication (with editorially-constructed accompaniment for piano or string trio/quartet/quintet) will be with Toccata Press in 2019.
  • Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs
    Discovered by Simo Muir in Helsinki, this collection of Yiddish folksong arrangements will be co-edited by Simo Muir (Yiddish text, introduction) and Stephen Muir (musical setting, introduction), and published (subject to permissions) in 2019 or 2020.


  • Hans Gál: The Complete Choral Works (vol. 1: a cappella works)
    Whilst much of the choral music by Hans Gál (1890–1987) was published during his lifetime, very little has been recorded and released professionally. Working with singer Bridget Budge and their newly-established professional chamber choir Borealis, Stephen Muir is embarking upon a long-term, multi-volume project with Toccata Classics aimed ultimately at recording the composer’s complete choral oeuvre, both accompanied and (in this first volume) a cappella.
  • Sacred Jewish Choral Works from Rostov-on-Don
    Based upon the new edition described above, a recording of some of the repertoire unearthed by Stephen Muir in Cape Town is planned for 2019 with the professional chamber choir Borealis, provisionally to be distributed by Toccata Classics.

This entry was posted in News.

As one door closes…

By Libby Clark


Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, Oudekraal, Cape Town (photo: Steve Muir)

As many of you will be aware, Performing the Jewish Archive formally came to an end on 30 June 2018, when our Arts and Humanities Research Council funding ceased. The project has enjoyed a remarkable three-and-a-half years of delivery, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for supporting the project and its activities.

Of course, as the door closes on PtJA, many others open, and our work and the legacy of PtJA are continuing beyond the life of the funding period. New partnerships and connections have been formed as a result of the project and we look forward to seeing how these continue to develop. You can read Principle Investigator Stephen Muir’s article ‘PtJA research & outcomes: what next?’ to learn what we have in the pipeline.

There are, however, some staffing changes and practicalities to consider now that the project is officially at an end, and we would like to make you all aware of these:

Staffing changes

A number of you will already know that Simo Muir left the project at the end of December 2017 to take up an Honorary Research Fellow post at University College London. Simo’s contribution to PtJA was extraordinary and his work has been greatly missed by the team since his departure.

I (Libby) have also now left PtJA to take up the position of Programme Manager for UK aid funded Research Programme working in low and middle income countries. My last working day on the project was 26 February. PtJA has been a remarkable project to be a part of, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for their support and for the numerous opportunities for personal and professional development that PtJA has provided me with.

With the departure of Simo and myself, please note that the project office at the University of Leeds is no longer staffed, and many of the day-to-day functions of the project have ceased to occur, or will take place in a reduced capacity.

Contact details

The PtJA email address ( will be monitored for the foreseeable future by Principal Investigator Stephen Muir. The project telephone number will not be operational from March onwards so to contact the project by phone, please call the School of Music on +44 (0)113 343 2583 and ask to be transferred to Stephen Muir.

Online profile

The project website, Facebook and Twitter accounts remained live and updated until June 2018, albeit in a much reduced capacity. Since June 2018, these accounts have no longer be monitored or updated, though they will remain online as part of the project archive.

Project Newsletter

This is the final issue of the PtJA project newsletter. The PtJA mailing list will remain in operation, however. As with any MailChimp-managed mailing list, you can unsubscribe at any time, though we very much hope that you will stay with us, if only to get news of any new projects that you can then follow.

On behalf of the whole PtJA team, thank you very much for reading the project newsletter; we hope you have enjoyed following our progress, collectively and individually, and we look forward to meeting you again during one of the many projects that will emanate from PtJA.

Over and out!

This entry was posted in News.

Silenced Death

By Simo Muir

(First published in Helsingin Sanomat, 27 January 2018)

Hanna Taini in the film Morsian yllättää (The Bride Surprises, 1941)

The sister of 1930s’ film star Hanna Taini died in the Holocaust – the family remained silent about the murdered sister and her daughter for seven decades

Ruth Kamtsan from Helsinki recalls listening through the door, as a child, to the conversation of adults. It was a few years after the war, in the early 1950s. Ruth was born in 1946, so was still a little girl.

A relative from Riga, father’s uncle, had come to visit. Father and the Riga uncle were speaking in another room. Or, rather, the uncle was speaking. Father was weeping.

Ruth Kamtsan’s father, Bernhard, was the son of the Helsinki-Jewish Schlimowitsch family. Ruth had always believed that she had two aunts on her father’s side, aunt Ester and aunt Hanna. Hanna was the celebrity of the family—the famous movie star Hanna Taini, known throughout all Finland before the war.

But now Dad told her that Ruth had a third aunt, Martha. And that Martha had a daughter.

So Ruth heard from her father of her aunt and cousin, of whom the family had never spoken in the past. At the time, father told Ruth that aunt Martha had disappeared along with her daughter. Then the silence returned, and no-one ever spoke of them again.

There were five children in the Schlimowitch family in Helsinki. Martha sits to the left. Beside mother Rebecka stands the youngest child Hanna

Ruth Kamtsan’s grandparents, Mendel and Rebecka Schlimowitsch’s, had five children. Ruth’s father Bernhard was the middle of the siblings. He gained two little sisters: Martha (b. 1909) and Hanna (b. 1911).

There were five children in the Schlimowitch family in Helsinki. Martha sits to the left. Besides mother Rebecka stands the youngest child Hanna.

The Schlimowitsch siblings were third-generation Helsinkians and attended Swedish-language schools in the city. The family faced a major tragedy in 1921 when the children’s mother died. Hanna—the youngest— was only ten years old; Martha was twelve.

This was not the last of their adversities: Two years later, the father died as well. Despite this, the siblings decided to stay together, and the younger children were not placed with other families.

Hanna started acting early on in the Yiddish Theater Society in Helsinki. On one occasion, at the Fazer Café, a photographer noticed her extraordinary beauty and suggested that she have a test shoot. The encounter led to Hanna’s first film role in 1929 when she was only 18 years old. It was at this time that she adopted the stage name Hanna Taini.

The Helsinki Jewish Community maintained close contact with other Jewish communities in the Baltic States. In the summer of 1938, for example, Finns participated in Jewish sports competitions organized in Liepaja in Latvia. For a small community, youth meetings of this kind were also important for identifying a Jewish spouse.

Martha—the second little sister of Ruth Kamtsan’s father Bernhard—became acquainted with a businessman from Riga on a similar Latvian trip. Salman Kir conquered Martha’s heart, and the wedding was celebrated the following year (1939). At the outbreak of the Second World War, Martha and Salman’s daughter was born. The young couple named their daughter Ruth (born late 1939).

Martha settled in Latvia after her wedding. At that time, Riga was an international and multilingual city with more than 40,000 Jewish inhabitants. Shortly after the birth of Martha’s baby, in June 1940, Soviet troops occupied Latvia. From then onward, the Jews suffered oppression. The new rulers abolished Zionist organizations and Hebrew schools. Thousands of Jews were deported to Siberia, but Martha and Salman managed to avoid expulsion.

However, their concerns did not end there. On the contrary, Nazi-German troops reached Riga only a year later, on the first day of July 1941. The persecution of the Jews began immediately. Martha’s husband Salman was arrested early in July with countless other Jewish men. The Einsatzgruppe A, the extermination unit that came with the Wehrmacht, commenced executions. In collaboration with the Latvian auxiliary police forces led by Viktors Arajs, the unit put to death an unknown number of Jewish men during the summer and early autumn.

No information is available regarding the final destiny of Salman Kir; after he had been taken by the Nazis, however, he was not seen again. The Latvian research project, ‘Jews of Latvia: Names and Fates 1941–1945’, reveals that Martha’s fate, and that of her year-old daughter Ruth, was sealed only one month after Salman had disappeared.

Riga ghetto map

Boundaries of the Riga ghetto (orig. pub. 23 Aug 1941 in Tēvjia, a Latvian newspaper under Nazi control). Latvian National Library on-line; public domain under German law.

The Germans had established a ghetto in the poor Moscow District of Riga, and Martha was forced to move there with Ruth and 29,000 other Riga Jews. The conditions in the ghetto were miserable. Weekly food per person was restricted to 175g of meat, 100g of butter, and 100g of sugar.

In October 1941, the Nazis fenced off the ghetto with barbed wire. All remaining contact with the outside world was finally cut off. By the end of the same year, the Nazis initiated the liquidation of the Riga ghetto and its captive inhabitants—they wanted the area cleared to make room for Jews expelled from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Prior to this, the Nazis had moved Jewish men of working capacity to a separate ghetto.

In the morning of 30 November 1941, a group of more than two thousand SS-men and Latvian volunteers drove women, children and the elderly out of their homes and forced them into lines, then moved their prisoners out of the ghetto.

The distance to the killing site in the Rumbula Forest is six miles. Those incapable of walking were gunned down on the spot by the Nazis. Once in the woods, the prisoners were ordered to undress, driven to mass graves, and forced to lie down on the bodies of those previously murdered. The killing team assembled by the Nazis then opened fire on them with automatic guns. Many did not die from the shooting, instead experiencing death by burial alive.

The murder squad executed nearly 13,000 Riga Jews on that day. The same process took place on 9 December, after which 25,000 ghetto inmates had been murdered. There is no information about the fate of Martha and Ruth specifically; most likely, however, they ended up with the other ghetto inhabitants in the Rumbula mass graves.

During the Continuation War (1941–44), Finnish Jews found themselves in the invidious position of fighting as brothers-in-arms with the Germans. However, Jewish life in Finland continued much like the lives of their compatriots.

Bernhard (the elder brother of Martha and Hanna) served as a Russian interpreter during the transfer of prisoners-of-war. The youngest Schlimowitsch sibling, Hanna, pursued her acting career, appearing on the stage of the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki, as well as in numerous films.

The Jews were not ignorant of the situation for their kindred in the German occupied lands. News of ghettos and forced relocations filtered through via the Swedish press. Many, such as the Schlimowitsch family, tried to maintain contact with their relatives in the ghettos, becoming increasingly worried when their correspondence faltered.

The youngest of the Schlimowitsch children, Hanna Taini, fell from the public eye in 1943. Leaving her to appeal to family friends. Later researchers have considered whether or not antisemitism in Finland, and the production company Suomi-Filmi’s close connections with Germany, exacerbated Taini’s popular marginalization. Stories related within the family support this proposition.

Taini’s daughters have recalled how their mother spoke of feeling like an unwanted person at the Swedish Theatre because of her Jewishness, and of having to leave the company. It is also perhaps not too farfetched to surmise that the shock of her sister’s fate, coupled with growing concern over her own future, also impinged upon Taini’s withdrawal.

Whatever the case, Hanna Taini was only 32 years of age when she fell from Finnish movie stardom. For the remainder of her working life she was employed in the family’s hat shop on Aleksanterinkatu Street.

Verified reports of the systematic destruction of European Jewry reached the Finnish–Jewish community at the end of 1942. Only a little earlier in Finland, eight Jewish refugees were deported to Germany. The authorities assured the community of their safety, but fear of further possible deportations nevertheless placed them under considerable strain. Only with the Moscow Armistice of 1944 did these concerns disappear.

After the Second World War, the whole horror of the Concentration Camps and Death Camps was revealed. Like the Schlimowitsch family, many Finnish Jews had lost close family members. The first extensive memorial service for victims of the Holocaust was held in the Helsinki Synagogue in April 1946.

However, in public, Finnish Jews wanted to distance themselves from the Holocaust. For example, when the World Jewish Congress inquired in 1946 about the community’s intention to erect a monument to the victims of the Jewish genocide, the answer was negative. In addition, the community refused to support the memorial of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which was unveiled in 1948. Instead, Finnish Jews wanted to establish a memorial for the fallen Jewish soldiers of the Winter and Continuation Wars.

In the unstable post-war political climate, the Holocaust was an extremely sensitive issue. Speaking after the war, Interior Minister Toivo Horelli stated that the expulsion of Jewish refugees during the Continuation War, in November 1942, had been ‘a purely police operation’.

The political leadership of the country wanted thus to emphasize that Finland was in no way involved in the Third Reich’s crimes against humanity. Finns sought to remain silent on issues that could have enabled the Soviet Union to label the country as fascist. It was only in 1970 that the memorial to the Jewish Victims—completed in cooperation with Sam Vanni and Harry Kivijärvi—was unveiled on the wall of the Helsinki Synagogue.

The Latvian research project provides information about Martha and Ruth Kir. (PHOTO: SAMI KERO / HS)

Ruth Kamtsan traveled to Riga last summer. It was her first visit to the city in which her silenced aunt, her silenced cousin and her silenced father had lost their lives in the genocide of European Jewry 76 years earlier. Kamtsan’s visit included the Riga Jewish Museum, and she also went to the Moscow District, which in 1941 had been the scene of an unspeakably cruel series of events. Kamtsan has obtained more information regarding her aunt’s fate—information that has not been easy to absorb.

In winter 2018, amidst the melting snow of Helsinki, Ruth Kamtsan is trying to imagine what her cousin, seven years her senior, would have been like. A cousin she never met, but whose memory she has carried all her life in her own name. How would her cousin’s life have turned out had she not been murdered in the Holocaust aged just one? Ruth Kir would be 78 years old today.

The author works as a researcher at University College London, and was formerly Research Fellow for the international research project Performing the Jewish Archive.

This entry was posted in News.

PtJA on drive-time radio

Teri Dobbs, USA international co-investigator, presented an invited lecture on February 16, 2018 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music Graduate Research Symposium, ‘Performing the Jewish Archive: Rediscovering Jewish Music and Theatre’. Earlier in the day, Dobbs was the featured invited guest on Madison’s independent radio station, WORT 89.9 FM, for the drive-time show, The Morning Buzz. Dobbs discussed her research agenda with PtJA and reviewed the voluminous accomplishments of the grant team while previewing possible future projects.
Professor Dobbs traveled next to Munich, Germany, February 20–26, 2018 with UW-Madison PtJA colleague and local PtJA partner, Professor Rachel Feldhay Brenner, to present their PtJA-related work, ‘Holocaust: Literature, Music, Memory, and Representation’. The interdisciplinary conference, Near but Far: Holocaust Education Revisited, was held at Ludwig Maximillian University and focused on the work of scholars who educate students or the public about the crimes of the National Socialists and the reception of these crimes, as well as those who are in other ways connected to Holocaust education.
Finally, to complete a very busy couple of months, Dobbs gave an overview of the PtJA project and previewed some of her scholarship resulting from it at the biennial Music Education and Teacher Education National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, March 22–24, 2018. Her research was selected by peer review, the Society for Research in Music Education, and the National Association for Music Education (U.S.), and was the sole presentation of its kind at the conference.

This entry was posted in News.

‘Getting to know you’ Teri Dobbs

Interview by Libby Clark

Tell us about your role in PtJA
I’m the international co-investigator from the United States, located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My primary research agenda at the present time focuses on my investigating the meaning of music-making experiences in the Holocaust, whether it consists of performing, composing, listening, etc., particularly for children, but for adults as well. My work in this area is primarily theoretical and philosophical, keeping an eye on how my archival research and interviews with survivors—and the work of Team PtJA—might assist me in constructing a critical pedagogy of music remembrance. This will have an impact on the ways in which educators teach the Holocaust, emphasizing the ethical human subjectivity of the victims—which was denied them—and that of their students. I also am deeply interested in disability theory and the socio-cultural construction of human difference. Both agendas converge through my studies in the Holocaust.

What were you doing before working on PtJA?
What I continue to do now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: I am an Associate Professor of Music Education and Chair of Music Education in the Mead Witter School of Music. I research and teach courses to undergraduates, and graduate students pursuing Masters and Doctoral studies. I hold an appointment in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education, and am a faculty affiliate in the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, the Disabilities Studies Initiative, and the Arts Institute.

What’s the best thing about working on a project like PtJA?
It is so difficult to choose just one! It is a remarkable and rare privilege to be associated with this team, an utterly dedicated and passionate group of professionals who are engaged in this project. I have learned so much from each individual that my research and teaching have been enriched and, indeed, made more complex. This is my first experience with an international grant project of this scope, so just learning to navigate the budgetary and financial aspects of a budget that spans continents has been eye-opening. PtJA has allowed me to travel to places for the first time, present my scholarship to a worldwide audience but most importantly to meet new friends and colleagues. I remain, in the truest sense of the word, agog! That, and I have learned some amazing Yorkshire slang.

What do you get the most satisfaction from professionally?
I am a life-long learner and am very curious about learning new things, especially those that PtJA studies. So researching and sharing it through teaching suit me perfectly. Most of all, though, my deepest satisfaction comes from working with colleagues like the PtJA team who fearlessly dive into tough questions, new methods, new geographical locations, and become open to my own perspectives of research. We are really quite a social bunch who enjoy working AND playing together.

What’s the biggest challenge for you on this project?
Only one?? I would say that my biggest challenge is managing my time to meet both my PtJA obligations as well as my University obligations, which continue no matter what. That and the 6-hour time difference to make team Skype meetings: Team PtJA has seen me at my absolute worst between 6:00 and 7:00am Central Standard Time!

Outside of work, what are your interests and hobbies?
I enjoy gardening when Wisconsin is not covered in snow, raising mostly flowers, herbs, and peppers—the hotter the better. I then dry them and make vinegars and oils; this coming summer my goal is to create vinegar-based “shrubs”, tinctures, and bitters. I must have been an herbalist in an earlier life. As much as I would like to emulate my teammates Libby and Lisa who are incredible athletes, I enjoy the slow rhythms of yoga, qigong, and barre exercise. My husband, Jesse Markow, and I love to travel as well as cook—the bigger, more complex the project, the better! We are the adoring humans whose hearts have been thoroughly stolen by Asti the Wunder Dawg, half Italian Greyhound and half Devil Dawg (ask Simon Glass of the Krewe du Filme!), who keeps us on our toes.

Outside of work, what are the top things on your ‘bucket list’?
A solid week in a Northwoods cabin on a lake with NO wifi, TV, radio, etc, where I do nothing but soak up the quiet, learn how to knit, walk Asti, and read, read, read. That’s to fill up my bucket. Jesse and I would dearly love to return to South Africa—our welcome in Cape Town was so warm and genuine that we are actually looking at our calendars for a return trip. We also wish to spend more time with our far-flung families, whom we owe visits—get the guest room ready, folks! That and learn to play Irish flute!

If you were stranded on a desert island what three things would you want with you?
A whole crate of books, a non-stop supply of high-test chocolate, and my Markow family (that way, I get both Jesse AND Asti!).

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The Future of the Archive: Conference Report

By David Fligg

Our project’s final large-scale public event, the international conference ‘The Future of the Archive: Performing the Jewish Archive and Beyond’, was held in London between 14 and 16 January.  

Delegates from around the world, with the USA, Germany and Israel being particularly well-represented, attended the event, which was hosted by and took place at The British Library, one of PtJA’s most important partner-institutions. It brought together not only the PtJA team, but a number of individuals and organisations with whom PtJA has worked closely during the past three years.

(L-R) Dr Teryl Dobbs, Prof Michael Berkowitz, Dr Lisa Peschel

The keynote lecture was given by Michael Berkowitz, Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at University College London. His presentation, ‘Leopold Godowsky’s Living Archives Project (1963): Music, photography, film, preservation’, was characteristically entertaining in its focus on a remarkable individual—Godowsky Jr., son of the virtuoso pianist Leopold Godowsky, was himself a professional violinist, co-inventor of Kodachrome colour film, and married to George Gershwin’s sister, Frances. Prof. Berkowitz’s lecture was a veritable “who’s who” tour of Jewish Americans in the 1930s.

Sessions on memorialisation, cultural revival and preservation, and Holocaust testimony education shared as their overarching themes considerations of archives past, present and future, virtual, digital and fragmented. Underpinning this were the presentations from the PtJA researchers, reflecting on more than three years of ground-breaking archival discoveries in Jewish music and theatre, and how these can be sustained for, and bequeathed to, future generations.

The Cassia String Quartet

The second day of the conference culminated in an evening recital of music by Mozart, Gideon Klein and Pavel Fischer, performed by the Cassia String Quartet. The Cassia has had a close association with PtJA, and so it seemed entirely appropriate that the ensemble should take part in the project’s final public event.

PtJA’s new archival website Jewish Music and Theatre Online (, was officially launched at the conference  A selection of papers from the conference is in preparation for publication (late 2019) in a special edition of the Taylor & Francis journal Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History.

Download the conference programme booklet here

This entry was posted in News.

Joseph Toltz: Final project report

By Joseph Toltz

In January 2018, prior to the final conference at the British Library, I went to Spain to interview Liliana Cordoba-Kaczerginski, the daughter of the most significant Holocaust zamler (collector of Yiddish music), Szmerke Kaczerginski. Ms Cordoba-Kaczerginski generously gave of her time and talked to me about the songs for which her father was most famous.

After the conference, I flew to Vienna where I had the opportunity to hear a performance of two of Wilhelm Grosz’s larger symphonic works: his Overture für einer Opera Buffa Op. 14, followed by the one-act tragic-comic burlesque Achtung, Aufnahme! Op. 25. Both works were performed by students of the Musik und Kunst Privatuniversität der Stadt Wien, directed by the wonderful Dr. Andreas Stoehr. In the 1920s, the first work was later adapted as the overture for Grosz’s only large-scale opera, Sganarell. This modern performance took place on 18 January 2018 at the RadioKulturHaus ORF, and was the premiere of Achtung, Aufnahme! in Grosz’s home town.

Performances of music by Wilhelm Grosz, Vienna, January 2018 (flyer)

In April 2018 I travelled to the United States to co-present with Dr Anna Boucher at the 25th International Conference of Europeanists in Chicago. We talked about our work with the first Holocaust songbook, Mima’amakim: folkslider fun di getos un lagers in poylin. Joining us on our panel was Dr Brigid Cohen (NYU) and Dr Andrea Bohlman (UNC-Chapel Hill). Both Brigid and Andrea gave engaging and fascinating papers, with responses from the inspirational Professor Leora Auslander (University of Chicago). I had two other speaking engagements on this tour of North America. I gave the Al and Malka Green Lecture in Yiddish at the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies, at the University of Toronto. My subject was on musical memories from Łódź Ghetto Child Survivors in Australia, which can be viewed on YouTube.

The second engagement was a very special symposium, Laughing at Power, Fascism and Authoritarianism: Satire, Humor, Irony, and interrogating their Political Efficacy. Scholars from around the world gathered to talk these issues through, with three special performances to add to the mix: Eli Valley talking about comics as protest art, Jewlia Eisenberg and David Shneer performing anti-fascist cabaret songs by Lin Jaldati, and Anna Shternshis and Psoy Korolenko singing Yiddish anti-fascist songs from wartime Soviet Union, rediscovered in the Beregovski Archive in Kiev, Ukraine.

Special Presentation: Torah Scroll rescued from Czechoslovakia, Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick

Arriving home in Australia, I travelled to Melbourne to consecrate a Czech Torah scroll at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick. The scroll was saved from Nazi desecration in the early 1940s, neglected during the Communist era and saved again in the 1960s, when it and 1567 other scrolls were relocated and restored by The Memorial Scrolls Trust at Westminster Synagogue. The scroll is from the town of Valašske Meziríčí in Moravia. Six Jews survived from this town. The synagogue was destroyed in the 1950s and the desecrated cemetery bulldozed. As custodians for the scroll, the Jewish Holocaust Centre will give new life to this scroll and its story.

Today (June 26th), I’m sitting in a small apartment in Vienna, having spent the last 8 or so days going through the Wilhelm Grosz Archive at the Exil.Arte Zentrum. It was 7 years ago that I got to know Dr Michael Haas. It was his introduction to Jean Forman that placed me on the road to discovery with Wilhelm Grosz, and it was Performing the Jewish Archive who brought Grosz back to the listening public most recently. The family archive is in safe hands here at Exil.Arte. The generosity of Professor Gerold Gruber, Dr Michael Haas, Dr Ulrike Anton and the wonderful and helpful archivist, Katharina Reischl, has been overwhelming. I must thank the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for allowing me to take time off to do this initial examination of the material (which only arrived in Vienna two weeks prior to my visit).

Wilhelm Grosz

I have been through almost every box of Grosz’s collection, and as well as piecing together the puzzle of this remarkable life, there are some wonderful and exciting discoveries waiting to come to life again in performance. I am especially grateful to Magistera Anita Taschler and Professor Gerold Gruber for facilitating funding through the Erasmus+ scheme. None of this would have been possible without Performing the Jewish Archive. The project has provided opportunities for research and travel that I never thought possible, and I am eternally grateful to the Leeds and York team, and the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council for believing in the vision articulated in 2014.

Dr. Joseph Toltz
Sydney Conservatorium of Music
The University of Sydney

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‘Prince Bettliegend’ in Australia and Cape Town

By Lisa Peschel

During my nearly 20 years of research on the cultural life of the World War II Jewish Ghetto at Theresienstadt (in Czech, Terezín) many tantalizing fragments have come to light. In addition to the complete theatrical scripts that were preserved (see my anthology Performing Captivity, Performing Escape for details), individual scenes and songs provide clues about the rich theatrical life of the ghetto.

One of the most intriguing finds was a set of songs for a musical called Prince Bettliegend (Prince Bedridden). Several survivors recalled the lyrics to these songs, which were set to popular melodies from the interwar Liberated Theatre in Prague. The Terezín lyrics had been preserved, even published, but the libretto was nowhere to be found. What story had these songs accompanied? In the summer of 2017, the Performing the Jewish Archive project provided me with not just one but two opportunities to reconstruct that story.

PtJA co-investigator Joseph Toltz and I had talked about the songs over the years, due to our shared interest in Terezín and the Liberated Theatre. When he began organising our Out of the Shadows festival in Australia, he invited me to work with him and colleagues at the University of Sydney to create a performance of Prince Bettliegend. We knew that a true reconstruction was impossible – all we had were the songs, a poster, and several fragments of survivor testimony about the play – but we aimed to reimagine the musical in a way that would speak to audiences today. Because our South African festival was scheduled to take place mere weeks after the Sydney festival, I asked our collaborators in Cape Town and Stellenbosch if they would be interested in creating their own version of Prince Bettliegend, based just on the songs and a detailed plot outline that we would provide. Thus two radically different re-imaginings emerged, each speaking to very different audiences while at the same time remaining completely faithful to the history of the ghetto.


Robert Jarman as the King, Sydney 2017. Photograph by David Goldman

Joseph approached Dr Ian Maxwell at the University of Sydney about the project, and he and his head of department, Dr Laura Ginters, devised an ambitious plan. Ian recruited five actors who were part of the Sydney alternative theatre scene and challenged them to help us create the story, and Laura incorporated the project into a performance ethnography module: a group of theatre undergraduates would observe and write on our creative process as part of their coursework. The actors improvised around a plot outline that I had created, based on survivor memories and the song lyrics, and that Ian, Joseph and I had fleshed out immediately upon my arrival in Sydney.

Joseph also brought music director Dr Kevin Hunt into the project to arrange the music for a student jazz ensemble at the Sydney Conservatorium. Joseph and Kevin’s early work with the actors on the songs set the tone of the piece: it was unexpectedly light-hearted. The Liberated Theater’s founders Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich were committed anti-fascists, but they were also comedians. The jazz melodies by their brilliant composer, Jaroslav Ježek, accompanied hilarious lyrics that cut the Nazi regime down to size and emphasized the strength of ordinary but united people. Terezín prisoners Josef Lustig, Jiří Spitz and František Kovanic, who created Prince Bettliegend, borrowed the melodies for their own comic fairy tale. In brief, the King (clearly an allegory for the Jewish leadership of the ghetto) promises the hand of his daughter in marriage to whomever can cure the Prince of a mysterious ailment that prevents him from getting out of bed. Two comic characters, Hocus and Pocus, try to save him, only to find out that the King is actually bribing a ghetto doctor to ensure that the Prince remains ill – and therefore cannot be sent away on an ongoing transport.

What did this mean in Terezín terms? The prisoners feared outgoing transports ‘to the East’ as a voyage into the unknown and were desperate to avoid them, sometimes drawing on personal connections with ghetto leaders or resorting to bribery to be removed from transport lists. Thus Prince Bettliegend was a satire on favouritism and corruption in the ghetto. The reality, however, was much worse than the creators of the musical could have imagined: the Nazis successfully concealed the true destination of the transports – most went to Auschwitz – until the end of the war.

After studying the history of the ghetto and the influence of Voskovec and Werich with our actors, our response to the material was unanimous: we would honour the original piece by keeping its comic tone. But our own themes soon emerged. Through an accident of casting – all of the actors except the one playing Bettliegend himself were in their late 40s or 50s – the plot began to revolve around the efforts of the older prisoners to save the life of the young prince. This theme was also true to the history of Terezín. The Jewish leaders of the ghetto devoted their scarce resources to protecting children and youth as much as possible. The large number of survivors younger than 16 years of age – over 1600 – is a testament of the success of their efforts.

The result of our development process? The three nights of the run sold out to enthusiastic audiences, and the performance can be viewed here: There are many moments of revelation, of laughter, of a sense of connection with the Terezín actors that I will always remember, but perhaps one is the most intense. Edith Sheldon, a Terezín survivor living in Sydney, advised us on the performance. While she and I were watching a rehearsal, she began to sing along: not our English-language lyrics, but the original Czech lyrics from Terezín , which she not only remembered – as she told us, all the young Czech Jews sang those songs in the ghetto – but remembered with great pleasure. The value of bringing this work into the present merged with the value of eliciting her unexpected memories: memories of the pleasure she experienced due to the creativity of her fellow prisoners, even in a World War II Jewish ghetto.

South Africa

Devonecia Swartz & Breyten Treunicht as Hocus & Pocus, Cape Town, 2017

While the Australian team was developing Prince Bettliegend, Amelda Brand at Stellenbosch University, supported by her head of department Professor Petrus Du Preez, took on the plot outline and songs and began to work with a multi-racial student cast to develop their own version. Music director Leonore Bredekamp developed her own klezmer-inflected versions of the songs for a five-piece ensemble.

Because I was not present for the development of the South African production, my first viewing, a dress rehearsal just a few days before the show opened, was a revelation. While studying the history of the ghetto together, Amelda and her students drew many parallels with the history of racial discrimination in South Africa. Through casting and the development of their own script, privilege became equated with race: the Prince was being saved because he was white, and the characters Hocus and Pocus, played by black actors, use their wiles to survive in a ghetto where they had no access to such privilege.

The show was performed twice to enthusiastic audiences, and can be viewed here: The cast was subsequently invited to perform Prince Bettliegend at the annual Word Festival in Stellenbosch, to great acclaim. The most emotional moment for me, however, remains the first time I saw the ending at the dress rehearsal. During the finale song, each performer stepped forward in turn, said the name of the Terezín actor who had played their role, and briefly described the fate of that actor. It was tremendously moving to see these students, many of whom were the same age as the Terezín actors, recite brief bios such as ‘she survived and returned to Prague after the war’ or, much too often, simply ‘he perished’.


After viewing both versions, and hearing from both casts what this project had meant to them, I can only conclude that the story Lustig, Spitz and Kovanic created in Terezín, set to Ježek’s brilliant melodies, is still incredibly, flexibly alive. Two very different casts on two very different continents were able to imbue the performance with meaning, personally and for their present-day audiences, while remaining true to the history of the ghetto. The PtJA project has always aimed to bring the lost works of Jewish artists into the present, and I can think of no more fitting way to honour these artists than to let Prince Bettliegend live and breathe in today’s world, speaking to new artists and new audiences all over the world.

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PtJA in Israel

PtJA’s Project Consultant, David Fligg, avoided the Beast from The East’s wintry weather in late February, by escaping to Israel.

Amongst his activities there, he was invited to give a lecture in Modi’in, to the Israel Genealogical Research Association (IGRA) on how he’s applied archival research methods in tracking down information on Gideon Klein’s family, material which was assumed to have been lost during the Holocaust. The invitation came via Modi’in resident, originally from Leeds, Marion Stone, who attended the PtJA’s ‘Out of the Shadows’ festival in the Czech Republic. Marion later wrote an article about the festival for Israel’s leading ex-pat publication Esra Magazine. That prompted journalist Lucille Cohen to write her own article for the magazine, as previously reported on the PtJA’s website, which in turn, and in a roundabout way, resulted in David’s invitation from IGRA.  

David was also invited by Gila Flam, Director of the Music Department of the National Library of Israel, to view the music and sound archive there. Gila is closely associated with the PtJA’s work, and curates the largest single collection of Jewish and Israeli music in print, manuscripts and recordings.

David Fligg and Gila Flam peruse the Naomi Shemer archive

“It’s a unique collection,” says David, “and I was genuinely overwhelmed by what I saw. For me, one of the highlights was being able to look through the personal archive of the songwriter Naomi Shemer, and actually see her original manuscript of the song ‘Jerusalem of Gold’—there in Jerusalem!”

David and Gila were also joined by Zvi Semel from the Jerusalem Academy for Music and Dance, and the Jerusalem Music Centre who, like Gila, has presented at PtJA events. One of the outcomes of David’s visit is that the Library plans to host the Israeli launch of David’s forthcoming biography of Gideon Klein.

Tel Aviv’s Karov Theatre was also on David’s itinerary, as the theatre is keen to stage a Hebrew language performance of Gideon Klein: Portrait of a Composer, and accompanying educational workshops. The play was originally devised by David for the ‘Out of the Shadows’ festivals in the UK, USA and Czech Republic, and the production has been re-dramatised by playwright Brian Daniels for performances to mark Klein’s centenary next year.

“The Karov Theatre is especially interesting,” explains David, “focusing as it does on cultural and educational projects in the community, and discovering, and working with, young talents—ideals which would have resonated with Klein’s own vision as an educator.”

Funding is central to Karov’s envisaged production. Says David, “If any generous sponsors are interested in this project, they should contact me directly at”

David, Fligg, Gila Flamm and Zvi Semel in front of Mordecai Ardon’s stained glass window, National Library of Israel

David’s new biography of Gideon Klein will be issued by Toccata Press in 2019 for the Klein centenary. As part of the centenary commemorations, David, along with other PtJA colleagues, will stage a series of events in the Czech Republic, GidoFest100. Gideon Klein: Portrait of a Composer will be performed in repertory at Prague’s Svando Theatre in Czech from December 2019, and in its English version during 2020.

David’s chapter on Klein will appear in The Routledge Companion to Music under German Occupation, 1938-1945: Propaganda, Myth and Reality, to be published later this year. His performing editions of Klein’s Topol (The Poplar Tree), and Movement for Solo Harp are shortly to be published by Boosey and Hawkes.

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A life-changing experience

Libby Clark (PtJA Project Manager) interviews Emma Dolby (Undergraduate Research Scholar) about her three years with the project

Libby Clark: Emma, tell us a little bit about your role in PtJA and what you have been working on over the last three years

Emma Dolby: I’ve been the Undergraduate Research & Leadership Scholar and I’ve been working with PtJA for three summers. In June 2015, at the end of my first year, I helped the team to run the ‘Magnified and Sanctified’ conference, and then I spent 10 weeks helping to collate information to form a portable project exhibition. It was the first time I had been in a research environment and it was quite exciting to meet a lot of researchers from all round the world. That summer involved a lot of emailing, a lot of corresponding and Skype meetings. I started editing things, which I had never done before, and then talking to a graphic designer which I had never done before, talking about how the design could work, looking up the different kinds of physical exhibition we could have. It was the first time I’d had to help to manage a project and that was quite exciting.

In my second summer I used the content from the exhibition and turned it into a draft educational package for schools. So it was thinking back to when I was at school and how I could make the material accessible for school pupils. I even ended up phoning my old teacher! I also phoned a lot of educational centres, which now has proved really, really useful because I am applying to be a teacher. So actually saying I have written a load of lesson plans is really useful.

And then in the summer of 2017 I went with the team to the Cape Town festival and helped with the festival logistics; and finally, I helped to manage logistics for the Future of the Archive project conference at the British Library in January 2018.

PtJA exhibition at the Prague Conservatory, 2016

Libby Clark: Looking back over the three years you have worked with PtJA, could you reflect on the key skills that you have learnt through this scholarship scheme?

Emma Dolby: I feel like research, leadership and event management are three skills that I have really built on. I feel like in comparison to had I just done my degree on its own, I would have learned more about research because you’ve got to do it for your essays and dissertation and all those sorts of things, but I understand a lot more why research is important, what the context of it is and actually what happens to the research. Because as undergraduates, our essays go from us, to the lecturer and back again, they go nowhere, I’m glad they don’t, but actually being in a project where the research matters and it actually affects people’s lives, and it’s to do with learning about real people who existed, I think that has been a really important skill to learn: actually what is research, why do we do it and how do we do it. And again, just being able to talk to professional academics and researchers that do this on a daily basis, and they have been really lovely and kind and patient and explained everything to me and, without trying to sound clichéd, have taken me on the journey of PtJA.

Another skill is leadership. I think being – and this is a good thing, not a bad thing – I think being thrown in at the start and just being given an exhibition and being told, right, this is your job for 10 weeks, you do this, we are here to support you, but you do it. And at first that was quite daunting. I was only 19 at the time and I was thinking, ‘I can’t do this, you are all much more qualified than me, what am I doing?’ And actually over the 10 weeks, I started to build my confidence and understand a bit more how you manage a set of people, how deadlines work, how you have to set them before the actual deadline, because things go wrong, people go off ill, or people can’t send you things, or actually, you receive them and then something happens that means you can’t do anything with it. So time management has definitely come into that!

Finally, learning about the management of events was another side of it that was really exciting because with this scholarship you do see lots of different elements of a project. At the first project conference in 2015, I was just doing what I was told and was happy to do as I was told! And then I feel that each time I’ve done a conference or festival I’ve learnt a lot more so by the last one, I knew how a conference worked. I knew what sort of delegates would be turning up, I knew how a session ran and I also knew the team a lot better so I could actually talk to them and communicate with them about what was happening. And those skills, I’ve really been able to bring into this event that I’m organising – The Undergraduate Research Experience – because now I’m helping to project manage that, it means the skills and observations that I’ve made over two conferences and two festivals I’ve been able to bring into this event.

University of Leeds Undergraduate Research Experience

Libby Clark: So you have mentioned an event you are organising – The Undergraduate Research Experience. Could you reflect on what you have learned from working with PtJA and what it might have been like to manage that event without the experience you have gained?

Emma Dolby: Without trying to sound too clichéd, I think without PtJA I wouldn’t have done a lot of the things I’ve done at University. I think the number of doors it has opened has been ridiculous. And it has been amazing and without PtJA I genuinely don’t think I would even have applied to organise the Undergraduate Research Experience conference, because I would have had no clue how to run an event, no clue how to plan an event and I think almost all of the skills I’m using for this event have either been developed from or completely made from PtJA. Obviously some of the stuff is just using your initiative, but it’s being able to use your initiative effectively and I think that has really been something that I have had to build on. Everything from when we were in South Africa and the exhibition didn’t turn up and I think if I had been on my own at that point I would have gone ‘well, I don’t know what to do’. But being able to observe what happens at that point was really good. And I think that’s the joy of this scholarship, it runs alongside your degree and now, actually, it takes it even further because going into teaching being able to say ‘I’ve run an event, I’ve managed a team of researchers for the exhibition, I’ve gone to a different country and had to help out at a project in a different country’ and I think PtJA for me has been one of the biggest changes to my University experience and a very, very enjoyable and positive one. I think it has really benefited my skills and really helped my confidence as well. I’ve managed to spend my spare time at University building up skills, developing myself and by doing something different that I didn’t expect.

Libby Clark: Have there been challenges?

Emma Dolby: Yes! I think there is in anything you do, obviously, and I think without the challenges things would be boring. One that definitely springs to mind is running a conference without you! Sitting in that hotel room the night before going ‘well, this is interesting!’ So yeah, it was being chucked in in an amazing way and again, I really wish you hadn’t got ill because that’s not nice for you and it would have been a lot easier with you there, but for me personally having that as the end of my scholarship has shown me how far I’ve come. From my first day walking in here in my first summer going ‘I don’ know what I’m doing’, sat at the computer going ‘do I just send emails?’ And I remember I wouldn’t send an email without actually getting either you or Steve to check it at first, I couldn’t write one, and by the end I was running a conference. And I think that transition just never would have happened without PtJA. I think for me that was a massive development at university, that I think needed to happen and that I wanted to happen. I didn’t necessarily expect it to happen in anyway, let alone this way. And it’s also just learning a different perspective, you know, I think university sometimes can make you very tunnel visioned, I need to get these grades and that’s all that university is. But I have realised that university isn’t just about getting grades, there is a life out there and it is about enjoying learning, it’s about actually developing yourself and I think I managed to learn that a bit earlier on in university because doing summers working with the research team, really learning why research is important, rather than research just being to put it in a 4000 word essay, to give it to your lecturer to try and get a good mark. I think the context of why we do this is really important and something that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise

Libby Clark: Thinking about some of the skills that you have learned, what big things would you take forward and apply in the future?

Emma Dolby: Definitely leadership and management of things I think is really important career-wise for me. Being a teacher, yes I won’t be managing academics who are older than me, I’ll be managing tiny children, but if I can take those skills to any job it will be really useful. I’m now more confident in asking people to do things and I think as a teacher that’s really important; if I do end up being a fully qualified teacher with a teaching assistant in my room, I’ve got to have the confidence to ask them to do things without doubting whether my knowledge is enough, if that makes sense. So yeah, managing events, managing people, being able to work with people, being able to lead is definitely something I will take forward.

As I say, and I think I have touched on this, just having the confidence to know that I can do stuff because university is about – for a lot of students including myself – university is about learning things and then applying them to an academic essay and I think actually having the confidence to use that knowledge is quite important. I came out of school being told ‘you can do music, you’re practical’. I didn’t class myself as being clever because there were a lot of people at my school who were a lot more academic than me. But actually to be told, you have worked in an academic environment for three years, you have helped them, is quite nice. Although I know I want to be a teacher I can always see myself wanting to learn more and maybe doing research for other reasons. I can see myself, now I know how lessons plans work and that teachers can take things that they find interesting and teach the children that, I think because I enjoy research I’m going to enjoy making those lessons, because I am going to be able to learn at the same time as my students. And again, I don’t think that’s something I would have had the confidence to do, to think, you know what I actually really enjoy researching, I can research, I can look up things so that I can benefit the people that I am teaching.

Libby Clark: If you were talking to someone right at the beginning of their Undergraduate Research Scholar career, what advice would you offer them?

Emma Dolby: First off I would tell them how amazing it is, because there is no way I would have expected the amount of experiences and amazing opportunities that are given to you. And I remember being told, and I think it is one of the best pieces of advice, ‘when you are in the Undergraduate Scholarship, always say yes to things’ and I have tried to follow that as much as I could and it’s benefited me. When you said to me ‘do you want to go to Cape Town?’, if I had said no it would have been terrible! If I had been like ‘well, it’s so far away, and I don’t know if I can do it and I don’t know if it will fit in with me going away for my year in industry’ I wouldn’t have had one of the biggest and best experiences I have ever had. So I would say to someone, just take any opportunity that gets given to you, if it doesn’t go well that’s fine. And do you know what, you can always say to someone, ‘this is a little bit too much, but I wanted to have a go’. 

Also I would advise a future scholar not to think of it as research for someone else and you are only there to help them. It is actually something to help you as well. I’ve learned so much and it’s really exciting because I have had discussions with people about the research that PtJA do, and actually watching them get excited as well is amazing, and the joy of spreading that research to other people is really lovely. 

Emma with the PtJA research team at the final concert in Cape Town, 2017

Finally, the people you meet are incredible. I now live with someone I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t done the scholarship, I frequently see people that I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t done the scholarship, and the team that I have been on have been so lovely, so patient, have put up with me for so long and they are people I wouldn’t have met, and experiences I wouldn’t have had. So I would say to someone, take every opportunity that gets given to you, enjoy it and absorb everything because you are there to learn and the people around you want you to learn.

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